Change of Rein

I received a great question in the email about change of rein, so I decided to make a post about it. When I first saw the term in the PATH Intl Certification Riding Test, I was confused. I had never heard of it before. And unless you ride horses classically, it’s not intuitive to figure out what it means. So here’s some help for you all. Enjoy!

What is change of rein?

  • Basically, when you change directions of travel in the arena.
  • More detailed, it’s changing directions AND changing the bend of the horse.
  • It’s called “change of rein” because you are changing which rein gives the horse the most contact and support. Typically you ride “inside leg to outside rein” which means you use your inside leg to push your horse’s barrel toward the wall and maintain forward motion, while the outside rein is in steady contact to keep the horse’s shoulders straight or control the size of the figure, so that your horse stays on track instead of falling away from the wall or figure onto their inside shoulder. When you change directions you change which rein is this supporting outside rein, hence the name “change of rein.”

Why change rein (directions)?

  • In order to evenly exercise both sides of both horse and rider.
  • Switching the bend helps supple the horse.
  • Prevents boredom.
  • Prepares the horse for the next exercise.

How – ways to change directions

  • There are many ways!
    • Half turn
    • Half turn reverse
    • Long diagonal
    • Short diagonal
    • Centerline
    • Middle line
    • Four loop serpentine
    • Two half circles
    • Half 10 meter circle return to wall
  • We will focus on the long diagonal, which is the easiest. Why?
    • it’s a straight line
    • it allows lots of time to get organized for changing your aids to the new bend
    • shallow turns and long lines encourage the horse to reach out rather than suck back
    • lets you easily reverse a group follow-the-leader style

change rein pic

How – to apply the aids to change directions

  • Beginner
    • Prepare the turn – look ahead and plan when to turn
    • Turn – use direct rein or neck rein steering, turn your body, look the direction you want your horse to go
    • Finish the turn – use reins to straighten out the horse or turn him in the new direction
  • Intermediate (skills to learn first are in bold)
    • Prepare the turn – a few lengths before each turn, half halt your horse to let him know something’s coming up. Look ahead and plan your turn.
    • Bend – bend the horse in the direction of travel, balancing him between the inside leg and outside rein, outside leg just behind the girth to keep his haunches straight.
    • Turn – bend the horse smoothly through the turn, the curve of his body should match the line he follows without resistance, ridden as deeply into the turn as is appropriate.
    • Straighten – come to feel both reins evenly and sit evenly on both seat bones. Some figures have a long straight stretch, others very short or not at all. Half halt to tell him something’s coming up.
    • Change diagonals – if you are posting the trot.
    • New Bend – transfer the horse smoothly to the new outside rein and inside leg, shift weight to the new inside seat bone, and establish the new direction of travel. Look ahead and plan your turn.
    • Turn – half halt to let the horse know something’s coming up, then bend the horse through the turn in the new direction.
    • Finish the turn – straighten him out, keeping a slight bend in the new direction.
  • Advanced
    • Same as above, but work on maintaining the same rhythm and frame of the horse throughout the entire exercise, making everything smooth.
  • Tips for changing rein across the diagonal
    • Turn the horse when his shoulder reaches the letter, 1-2 strides after the corner, to avoid making sharp turns. The horse’s shoulder should reach the letter when he reaches the other side of the track, a few stride before the corner, to avoid making a sharp turn.
    • Beginners can change posting diagonals in the middle of the arena, before asking for the new bend at the end of the line, so there is lots of time to get organized. Advanced riders can wait until the end of the line just before they bend the horse. If the straight line calls for an extended trot, wait until the end
  • Common mistakes
    • The horse tries to cut corner. The rider should use the inside aids more strongly, instead of pulling the horse back to the rail (in which case he puts his head toward the rail and falls on the inside shoulder).
    • The rider over turns their horse. Work on finishing the turn earlier.
    • The rider doesn’t turn their horse enough. Work on planning ahead and stronger aids.
    • The rider turns too soon, creating a sharp turn, which is hard for their horse to balance through. Work on planning ahead.
    • The rider carries both hands to the outside, causing horse to fall to outside shoulder.
    • The horse throws his head, rushes, shortens stride, or bobs his head. Work on the coordination of the aids so the rider is not interfering with the horse’s balance, and any of the above problems that might be included.


  • Use cone markers to tell riders where to start turning and where the middle of the arena is.
  • Use colored wrist bands to help riders with their rights and lefts.
  • Use a whiteboard or pictures to show the rider what the figure looks like.
  • Use a guide the first time, someone the rider can follow through the figure.

Tips for Certification

“Change rein across the diagonal” is part of PATH Intl’s Registered Instructor Riding Test at the Certification. They want to see good control of the horse, bending in the corners, not cutting corners, and changing the bend of your horse. The change rein at the posting trot requires changing posting diagonals correctly. If you get it wrong, fix it! They want to see if you notice your mistakes. For the change rein at the sitting trot, you may want to slow your horse a little in order to sit the trot.



Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgment!

One thought on “Change of Rein

  1. I didn’t know that you could exercise both sides of the horse and rider evenly when you change rein. I want to get better at horseback riding. I’ll read a list le bit more about changing rein before I try it out.

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